Top 10 Coaches: Old vs. New

Behind every great team is a great coach. In honor of Vince Lombardi’s birthday on June 11th, 1913, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s historic retirement from Man U, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 coaches of all time – old versus new. For this list, we’ve picked two iconic coaches or managers from each of the five main sports – one who’s more modern and current, and one from the good old days. We’ve compared the challenges faced by coaches in each era, like building a fanbase or dealing with egos, and what they accomplished during their careers.
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Top 10 Coaches: Old vs. New


Behind every great team is a great coach. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 coaches – old and new.

For this list, we’ve picked two iconic coaches or managers from each of the five main sports – one who’s more modern and current, and one from the good old days. We’ve compared the challenges faced by coaches in each era, like building a fanbase or dealing with egos, and what they accomplished during their careers.

NFL – Old: Vince Lombardi

You win the Super Bowl; you get the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Why? ‘Cause he was the greatest to ever coach the game. Seven years as king of the Cheeseheads produced five overall championships, including three-straight. Lombardi’s fierce determination, unwavering authority and focus on effort helped build Green Bay’s dynasty; but it was by going against public opinion and ignoring the NFL’s color barrier that Lombardi transcended his sport.

Teams:
- Green Bay Packers (1959-67);
- Washington Redskins (1969).

Impressive Stats:
- Never had a losing season as an NFL head coach;
- Named NFL Man of the Decade (1960s);
- His Packers won the first two Super Bowls.

NFL – New: Bill Belichick

With Tom Brady, Belichick formed one of the most successful coach-QB pairings ever. His ability to make tough choices and willingness to adjust netted him three Super Bowl rings in five appearances. Plus, for all the say he gets in day-to-day operations, Belichick may as well be GM, too. Sure, Spygate’s a dark spot on his résumé, but his record more than makes up for it.

Teams:
- Cleveland Browns (1991-95);
- New England Patriots (2000-Present).

Impressive Stats:
- The only NFL head coach to win three Super Bowls in four years;
- Has won more regular-season games (123) and more games overall (136) during a ten-year stretch (2002-2011) than any other head coach in NFL history;
- Named AP NFL Coach of the Year in 2003, 2007 and 2010.

NBA – Old: Red Auerbach

You gotta give it to the guy who helped build the league, all with a cigar in his yap. 20 seasons as an NBA head coach, and Auerbach led his dominant Celtics dynasty to nine championships, with an unmatched eight coming consecutively. Not only did he win, but this polarizing figure also broke the NBA’s color barrier and revamped the sport itself by focusing on team play.

Teams:
- Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1949-50);
- Boston Celtics (1950-66).

Impressive Stats:
- NBA Coach of the Year 1964-65;
- 8 consecutive NBA Championships, a record unmatched in any sport;
- 938 career wins (a record at his retirement).

NBA – New: Phil Jackson

He’s the only man to top Auerbach’s nine Championships won. Between retirements, the Zen Master put his holistic approach and triangle offense to good use, balancing superstar egos in both Chicago and LA. He brought home 11 wins, making him the only NBA coach to win multiple titles with multiples teams. Two more championships won as a player make Jackson untouchable in the record department.

Teams:
- Chicago Bulls (1989-98);
- Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2004, 2005-2011).

Impressive Stats:
- Highest winning percentage of any NBA coach (.704);
- Leads the NBA for most playoff games coached and won;
- Only coach in any major North American professional sports league to win over 10 championships.

NHL – Old: Scotty Bowman

Bowman started head coaching at age 34 with the fledgling St. Louis Blues. His no-nonsense style took him to five cities, built dynasties in Montreal and Detroit, yielded nine Stanley Cups and helped him adapt to a constantly changing game. Ingenious plays and pairings in the NHL and on the world stage earned Bowman respect, records, and a rep as one of the greatest coaches anywhere, ever.

Teams:
- St. Louis Blues (1967-71);
- Montreal Canadiens (1971-79);
- Buffalo Sabres (1979-87);
- Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-93);
- Detroit Red Wings (1993-2002).

Impressive Stats:
- Most wins in league history: 1,244 regular season, 223 playoff;
- 62 regular season wins in 1995-96;
- Only 8 regular season losses in 1976-77.

NHL – New: Mike Babcock

After bringing the Mighty Ducks to the brink of a Stanley Cup win in only his second season, Babcock found himself behind Detroit’s bench, where he made tough decisions and commanded respect from even the biggest superstars. He became the first coach to join the elusive Triple Gold Club by winning Olympic gold, World Championship gold and a Stanley Cup – proving his style, strategy and lucky tie work.

Teams:
- Anaheim Mighty Ducks (2002-04);
- Detroit Red Wings (2005-Present);
- Team Canada (2010).

Impressive Stats:
- Voted Coach of the Decade (2000-09) by Sports Illustrated;
- Tied for fastest coach to reach 70 playoff wins;
- Third-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 400 career wins.

MLB – Old: Connie Mack

The Tall Tactician progressed from catcher, to player-manager, to one of the most iconic skippers in MLB history. Before retiring from the Philadelphia Athletics at age 88, Mack’s focus on intelligence and discipline helped his team win five World Series. As he lived through baseball’s transitional phase, Connie Mack defined the manager’s role and demonstrated that you can do a lot with a little – both talent- and money-wise.

Teams:
- Pittsburgh Pirates (1894-96);
- Philadelphia Athletics (1896-1950).

Impressive Stats:
- Longest baseball career in history (64 years);
- Leads all-time in both wins (3,731) and losses (3,948);
- First manager to win the World Series three times.

MLB – New: Tony La Russa

The father of the modern bullpen was also the second skipper to win World Series in both leagues and was religious about stats. While a case could be made for Joe Torre instead, since he also finished his career without ever posting over 100 losses, only Tony won multiple pennants in both leagues and went out on top after taking the Cards to his third World Series win.

Teams:
- Chicago White Sox (1979-86);
- Oakland Athletics (1986-95);
- St. Louis Cardinals (1996-2011).

Impressive Stats:
- First manager to win multiple pennants in both leagues;
- Ranks third in major league victories (2,728) after Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763);
- Ranks second all-time in postseason wins (70).

Football – Old: Rinus Michels

If football is war, no wonder he was “The General.” The uncompromising Michels started his coaching career by transforming Ajax into one of the league’s best clubs. He left his mark with many other franchises, winning the European Cup, the Spanish league and the European Championship with various teams. He also managed one of the greatest teams never to win the World Cup with 1974’s Dutch National Team.

Teams:
- Ajax (1965-71, 1975-76);
- Barcelona (1971-75);
- Netherlands (1974, 1984-85, 1986-88, 1990-92);
- Los Angeles Aztecs (1979-80);
- 1. FC Köln (1980-83);
- Bayer Leverkusen (1988-89).

Impressive Stats:
- FIFA named him “Coach of the Century” in 1999;
- “Rinus Michels Award” rewards the best managers in Dutch football;
- Labeled “the Father of Dutch football” and “the father of Total Football.”

Football – New: Alex Ferguson

Even before he joined Man U, Furious Fergie’s career was littered with wins. But, once he joined Old Trafford, all bets were off: he built the world’s most successful football team, and helped the Reds bring home over 30 international trophies. By asserting his authority, taking a hard line with divas, and adapting to the game’s changing nature, Sir Alex kept his team competitive, especially in squeaky-bum time.

Teams:
- East Stirlingshire (1974);
- St. Mirren (1974-78);
- Aberdeen (1978-86);
- Scotland (1985-86);
- Manchester United (1986-Present).

Impressive Stats:
- Overtook Matt Busby to become Man U’s longest-serving manager ever;
- Won Manager of the Year most times in British football history;
- Multiple managerial records, including most title wins and most League title wins.

Do you agree with out list? Who do you think are the most important coaches in history? For more top 10s about your favorite sports, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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